Looking back and in comparison, my Protestantism seems two-dimensional. We had sketches of truth, a lot of it, but dimensions were a little off. Light and shade were not quite right. Features in our portrait were exaggerated, or obscured or omitted entirely. Contrasted with a three-dimensional landscape, filled with statues that come alive, casting shadows and leaving footprints. My traditions did not fully account for the mystery of God. All He has done, is doing, and will do; in His eternal moment.
My favorite poet was a Catholic. Francis Thompson seemed to see something I never knew. It’s like he believed there was really a church. It was not painted through rose-colored glasses, but Francis Thompson wrote as if the church was really there. Then I started to see it. Ecclesiastical and sacramental realities gave this mystic poet something to sink his teeth into. Francis Thompson wrote with a sadness from the reality of his dark Night. But, and this is key, he wrote with a hope that flowed from a real King who had a real church with real sacraments.
by Francis Thompson
O Lily of the King! low lies thy silver wing,
And long has been the hour of thine unqueening;
And thy scent of Paradise on the night-wind spills its sighs,
Nor any take the secrets of its meaning.
O Lily of the King! I speak a heavy thing,
O patience, most sorrowful of daughters!
Lo, the hour is at hand for the troubling of the land,
And red shall be the breaking of the waters.
Sit fast upon thy stalk when the blast shall with thee talk,
With the mercies of the king for thine awning;
And the just understand that thine hour is at hand,
Thine hour at hand with power in the dawning.
When the nations lie in blood, and their kings a broken brood,
Look up, O most sorrowful of daughters!
Lift up thy head and hark what sounds are in the dark,
For His feet are coming to thee on the waters!
O Lily of the King! I shall not see, that sing,
I shall not see the hour of thy queening!
But my song shall see, and wake, like a flower that dawn-winds shake,
And sigh with joy the odors of its meaning.
O Lily of the King, remember then the thing
That this dead mouth sang; and thy daughters,
As they dance before His way, sing there on the Day,
What I sang when Night was on the waters!